Learning is something that is good for us. It is good for our brain to engage it regularly. In modern life, a lot of activities that many of us engage in do not really stimulate our brain very much, so it is important that we actively seek out activities that really exercise our brain.
Think of your brain like a muscle. When you go to the gym, or engage in exercise of some kind, your muscles become more toned, they develop, they get stronger. If you are a smart person, your brain has the ability to develop and learn things. However, you must exercise your brain in order for it to get the maximum benefit, and for it to be able to learn more.
About 2 years ago, I started learning a new language. The language that I am learning is not a well known language, but it is the primary language where I live. I am an American, and I live in the Southern Philippines. I have lived here for nearly a decade already. But, up until about 2 years ago, I did not make a serious effort to learn the language here. Many people here can speak enough English to get by, so I did not motivate myself to learn the language widely spoken here, which is called Bisaya.
I have a teacher who comes and gives me lessons once per week at my house. She is an excellent teacher. I did make two earlier attempts at learning the language, but I was not motivated enough and did not go beyond the very elementary stages of learning the language. Now, though, with the right attitude, a willingness to learn, and the proper teacher, I am nearly fluent in the language. I can carry on a fairly in depth conversation in the Bisayan language, and feel fairly comfortable in doing so.
The point to this, though, is that learning a language has really changed my way of thinking. It has opened my mind to new ideas, not only ideas about the language itself, but the way that I think about the culture here has also changed for the better. I am more open to accepting things that would normally be outside my box. Getting outside your box, while challenging, is also a stimulant in itself. Allowing your brain to think differently, and notice things that you would normally dismiss with only minimal recognition is a great habit to get into. It helps you not only discover new things about the world and about yourself, but it also re-invents who you are in many ways.
Over the past couple of years, I have mostly learned through studying. Reading books about the rules of the language. Studying lists of vocabulary words, and memorizing them. Some words have been tough to learn, and I have had to resort to tricks to make my mind remember. For example, the Bisaya word for “farm” is “uma.” I had a hard time remembering that. Then, I told myself that Uma Thurman, the actress, lives on a farm. I have no idea if she really does, I kind of doubt she does. But, it was just a trick that helped me remember that “Uma” was “Farm.” So, playing these little tricks helped my brain pick up on these various things that I was trying to learn.
Now, after a year and a half or so of “book learning” I started feeling comfortable enough in the language that I decided to try to use the language as much as possible when I was out in public. I even make special trips to stores and to the public market specifically for the purpose of spending a few hours talking to people in their language.
Actually using the language in regular, normal conversation gave my mind a new way to learn! Not only was I studying from a book, but I was picking up on the way the real people spoke in real day to day life. Real spoken language is not always the exact same thing as language in a book! By taking on this new way of learning, I found that I was easily learning concepts that I could never properly remember when I was just reading a book! There were several key breakthroughs that came to me this way. I knew these things from the book, but always had trouble remembering them when needed. But, after just a few uses in regular spoken language, these became very natural to me.
So, my experience in learning the language has given my mind a new exercise that it was not used to. Just like if you added sit-ups to your morning exercise routine, you started using a new muscle, learning the language, and doing so by different methods has exercised different parts of my brain that were probably pretty dormant before. It’s a good feeling to see development happening in my brain, and how that manifests itself in my daily life.
Exercise your brain! Force it to go outside the box! I think you’ll be happy that you did it. I know I am!